name: Anna (also known as fraise on the internet, which is French for strawberry).
date of birth: Spring 1976
originally from: Oregon, USA
currently: On the French Riviera (among the less monetarily endowed :) ) with my compagnon
profession: Freelance editor and translator (French to English)
An “interview” follows.
How did you become interested in kimono?
I have a hard time remembering exactly why, but my curiosity was piqued one day in 2000 and I visited the Ichiroya kimono flea market website to see kimono. It was love at first sight – the colors and designs, fabrics and techniques enchanted me. As I’ve been sewing since I was a child, and didn’t have enough to spend on a ready-made kimono in good condition, my first kimono was actually a kurotomesode karinui (unfinished kimono, basted together), bought in 2001. I finished it to my size and learned a lot about the garment in doing so.
So you just looked up kimono out of the blue?
Not really – I grew up near Eugene, which, like many places on the US West Coast, is influenced by East Asian cultures. At the time I took it for granted, but now that I’m no longer surrounded by it in this part of France, I miss it a lot. I was first introduced to Japanese aesthetics through bonsai as a child, by a good friend of mine. I cultivated quite a few over the years and loved seeing hundreds of them on display at the county fair, although mine were never good enough to submit. (However, I did win a few ribbons for sewing and cross-stitch submissions!) There was another large influence in my childhood, though I don’t feel comfortable going into it in detail on the wide-open web :) But I really started to become interested in Japanese culture in general when I lived in Finland, after being introduced to manga, like so many others.
Some people think that’s a superficial way to be introduced to Japan and its culture.
Indeed, but it can depend on the person, I think. Also, any study of a culture necessarily starts out superficially. For instance I was first introduced to French culture in middle school, where our teacher had us read excerpts from comics like “Babar” and “Tintin” and discuss what they showed about France and the language. It can be easy to read manga and consider them to be nothing more than a comic, or – depending on how they’re written – they can be used as a starting point for finding out about things such as Japanese food, history, performing arts, literature, language and more. Although I can’t say for certain because it’s been so many years, I may have become intrigued by kimono through two series: “Ah! My Goddess” and “Rurouni Kenshin”. There’s a chapter illustration of Belldandy (from “A!MG”) in furisode in the manga that I still remember, it’s so beautifully done, and of course Kaoru (“Kenshin”) wears kimono throughout the series. I also remember reading Junichiro Tanizaki’s descriptions of kimono in “The Makioka Sisters” at about the same time.
Why a website about kimono?
It started out as part of my sewing website, which I put up after seeing knitting galleries done by others and thinking they were fun and interesting. It snowballed from there, as I got more and more feedback from visitors about kimono. Combined with my own growing interest in them, I started buying and learning more, and ended up giving kimono their own site on my web space. There’s a lot of raw information about kimono on the web, but not many people discuss them in detail, and that’s what interests me.
So you do it for fun?
Basically, yes, although it’s not completely selfless! Visitors bring information as well; I’ve learned a huge amount from people who I would never have met were it not for my website. So it’s a positive feedback loop, and I really enjoy that. Visitors might notice that I do also have Amazon referrals set up, but those go right back into the site, since I use any proceeds to buy books on kimono and related subjects, then review them here.
Plus being able to post pictures is a good excuse to dress up in kimono, since I’m rarely brave enough to wear them in public!